WNY SHA Summer Field Day

Tuesday August 22nd, 2017 8:30am to 3:30pm
Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds
Trolley Building, 12690 Rt. 31 Albion, NY 14411

Mark your calendars — the WNY Soil Health Alliance Summer Field Day is here! Morning lectures from keynote speaker Wendy Taheri of TerraNimbus LLC and John Wallace from Cornell, will be followed by an afternoon at Toussaint Farms in Ridgeway, NY, observing 8 cover crop trials and exploring a soil pit, with on-site discussion led by Wendy Taheri. Cover crop interseeder and herbicide demonstrations will also be included in the workshop.

To register for this event, please download our event flyer and return the included form to Orleans County SWCD at 446 W Ave, Albion NY 14411 with checks made payable to Western New York Soil Health Alliance enclosed. 

You may also register by emailing your name and number of attendees to If registering via email, payment will be due in cash at the start of the workshop. 

Register by August 18th for reduced pricing. $40/pre-registered participant; $50 for walk-ins. Lunch is included in the cost of the workshop. DEC and CCA credits pending.

8:30-9:30 am — Registration & Refreshments

9:30-10:45 am — Wendy Taheri, TerraNimbus, LLC | Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF) 101

10:45-11:45 am — John Wallace, Cornell Assistant Professor | Best Management Practices and Herbicide choices when Interseeding Cover Crops

12:00-1:30 pm — Lunch and travel to field trial site

1:30-2:30 pm — Station 1: Cover Crop Field walk | Observe 8 trials of cover crop plantings

2:30-3:30 pm — Station 2: Soil pit with Wendy Taheri | Learn what’s going on underground

Wendy Taheri, Ph.D. Photo provided.

Wendy Taheri, Ph.D. Photo provided.

Wendy Taheri, Ph.D. | TerraNimbus LLC

Wendy Taheri is a microbial ecologist who is transforming the world of agriculture by developing microbe-based, sustainable solutions to replace and reduce the plethora of toxic chemicals and environmentally-damaging practices currently used in conventional agriculture.  Because of her background in Environmental Ecology, she understands the synergistic effects that occur in healthy ecosystems and is applying them to broad-scale agriculture.  Her research focuses on harnessing the power of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF) and other beneficial microbes; and has broad-ranging, practical applications that are not only more profitable for farmers but also can potentially reduce atmospheric carbon and aquatic dead zones while increasing the sustainability and quality of our food and fiber supply chains.  

Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF) 101: AMF are keystone species in soil.  These tiny organisms remove carbon from the carbon cycle and use it to binds particles into soil aggregates.  This aggregation reduces erosion and increases the water and nutrient holding capacity of the soil.  As if that wasn't enough, AMF also improve the nutritional value of crops, and make plants more drought, salinity and disease resistant.  Ultimately this can reduce or eliminating the need for many toxic agrochemicals while providing better profit margins for farmers.  When coupled with best management practices and the innovative applications and methods that Dr. Taheri has developed to protect and diversify the microbial community in the soil and on foliage, global crop production systems can be transformed into dynamic systems that are more resilient to climate change, drought, and other environmental stresses.  

John Wallace, Cornell Assistant Professor. Photo provided.

John Wallace, Cornell Assistant Professor. Photo provided.

John Wallace | Cornell Assistant Professor

John Wallace is a post-doctoral research associate at Penn State University. His research broadly focuses on integrated weed management strategies in conventional and organic field crop production systems that utilize conservation tillage practices, with a particular focus on weed management tradeoffs associated with integrating cover crops into annual grain production systems. In September 2017, John will join Cornell’s NYAES in Geneva, NY as an Assistant Professor of Specialty Crop Systems, where he will focus on integrated weed management in vegetable and fruit crops. His presentation will focus on developing best management practices (BMPs) for interseeding cover crops into field corn. The talk will primarily focus on research conducted at Penn State and will include information on cover crop species selection, interseeding timing and compatible herbicide programs.

A cover crop mix in a Toussaint field, 2016. Photo by Jena Buckwell.

A cover crop mix in a Toussaint field, 2016. Photo by Jena Buckwell.

Toussaint Farms | Ridgeway, NY

Toussaint Farms in Ridgeway, NY grows corn, soybeans and wheat on approximately 1,750 acres using a variety of cover crop and reduced/no-till methods.

To learn more about Toussaint Farms interseeding trials and experience with reduced and no-till, follow the links below. 


If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at

Terminating Cover Crops

Photo source: Mike Stanyard

Photo source: Mike Stanyard

Article by Mike Stanyard - NWNY Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Extension Team. 

This article was originally published in NWNY Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Extension Team’s April 2017 Ag Focus and is published here with Mike Stanyard's permission.

So far, it looks like cover crops did well despite the lack of a prolonged blanket of snow this winter.  This makes our cover crops even more valuable as one of their main purposes is to keep our soils from blowing and washing away.  It was cold enough that the species that were supposed to winterkill like tillage radish and oats died. For those that remain alive like cereal rye, triticale, wheat, annual rye and clover species, we will have to come up with a plan on how to manage them.

Some of these overwintering cover crops will be used as a forage crop and therefore will be cut at the appropriate time (Growth Stage 9 for triticale) for optimum feed value.  Others will be mowed/crimped, tilled under, or terminated with herbicides.  Each of these has restrictions depending on what production system you utilize (ie. strictly grain based, no-till, or organic).  If cover crops are not dealt with in an appropriate manner, they can become weeds and compete with our production crops.  We saw that first hand in a drought situation last year. I have put together some advice on herbicide termination from the Midwest states on some of our commonly used cover crops.

Annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum), also called Italian ryegrass or common ryegrass, has become a very popular cover crop in NY but has a confusing name.  It is not an annual and survives the winter very well.  Do not confuse annual ryegrass with cereal rye.  Annual ryegrass is a good cover crop because of its ability to rapidly germinate in the fall, grow aggressively in the spring, and add substantial root and forage mass to the soil profile. Here is some advice from University of IL on proper termination with herbicides (

  • Make applications prior to 8″ plant height
  • Glyphosate rates of at least 1.25 lb ae/A are required, although 2.5 lb is preferred for annual ryegrass termination
  • Ryegrass must be actively growing, and it is recommended that applications occur only following three consecutive days when air temperatures have been above 45 F
  • The addition of saflufenacil to glyphosate can improve control of annual ryegrass
  • Combinations of paraquat, metribuzin and 2,4-D or dicamba can control small ryegrass (<6″ in height), but are not recommended for control of larger plants
  • Avoid using PSII herbicides (atrazine & metribuzin) in mixtures with glyphosate, as they can cause antagonism and poor control of annual ryegrass.

Cereal rye. Glyphosate at a rate of 0.75 lb ae/A will effectively control both species up to 18 inches tall. Mixtures of glyphosate plus 2,4-D, chlorimuron, chloransulam, atrazine, or saflufenacil can also be applied for additional control of other cover crop species (specifically broadleaf species) and residual control of summer annual broadleaf weeds. Depends on what crop species is going to be planted.  The nonselective herbicides paraquat and glufosinate are less effective than glyphosate on these species.

Gramoxone SL (paraquat) applied at 3 to 4 pints per acre works well on smaller rye before it reaches the boot stage.  Add a nonionic surfactant to the spray tank to enhance penetration and total kill.  If you will be planting corn and choose to use Gramoxone SL, consider adding 1 quart of atrazine per acre to improve control of the rye.  (personal communication, Mike Hunter, CCE).  In 2009, research by Bill Curran at Penn State University, found that the additional of 1 quart of atrazine per acre, when used with Gramoxone, provided 99% control of 8-10 inch tall rye.  Only 70% control of the rye was achieved when Gramoxone was used alone in this study.

Crimson clover and Austrian winter peas are two popular legume species used as cover crops that typically do not winter kill and require a spring termination.  I have seen control issues with large pea vines with glyphosate.  Information on control of these species with herbicides is limited, but cover crop guides advise that glyphosate and 2,4-D/ dicamba easily control crimson clover and winter peas.

University of Wisconsin has a nice fact sheet with additional cover crops which lists termination methods preferred and herbicide options (

Download a PDF of this article.

On Farm Trial: Har-Go Farms

Sustainable farming is defined as “the production of food, fiber, or other plant and animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare”. Dairy and livestock farms in particular have a capacity to create dynamic, holistic systems that manage nutrients on farm cyclically, especially those farms practicing pasture and organic farming strategies, whether they are certified organic or not. In an organic system, the practice of balancing manure, pasture, and feed crop efficiently is absolutely essential, and concern for the well-being of livestock and soils are paramount when preventative practices are your best strategy for maintaining a profitable farm business.

When John and Sue Gould of Har-Go Farms in Pavilion, NY opted to become certified Organic in 2006, they had a different kind of sustainability in mind: financial sustainability. With three college-age, or near college-age children, the Gould’s decided to become certified Organic because they saw it as a way to provide a sustainable future for their farm, the environment and their children, as well as a way to mitigate the economic fluctuations that have burdened the dairy industry for decades. Har-Go Farms sold their first Organic milk in October 2008, and in the years since have brought their son, Stephen on as a partner. Together, the three partners manage 600 acres of pasture and feed crop, 160 head of cattle, and employ 3 full-time, and 1 part-time employee. 

Left to Right:&nbsp;Eric Zinkievich, Ron Rodgers;&nbsp;founders Harold and Rose Gould;&nbsp;current partners John, Sue and Stephen Gould.&nbsp;Not pictured:&nbsp;Tim Bodine and Zak Griffith.&nbsp;Photo provided.

Left to Right: Eric Zinkievich, Ron Rodgers; founders Harold and Rose Gould; current partners John, Sue and Stephen Gould. Not pictured: Tim Bodine and Zak Griffith. Photo provided.

While the farm runs smoothly now, the Gould’s warn that the transition to Organic wasn’t without it’s growing pains. Information on Organic production has become more widely available over the years, but at the time of Har-Go’s transition, that information was limited and the Gould’s faced a very steep learning curve going “cold turkey” into a different system, with much of their progress coming as a result of learning from trial and error. Early on, many of Har-Go’s challenges and management errors were simply the result of lack of experience, which could only be remedied by making mistakes, and learning from them. 

Though Organic standards dictate that cows over 6 months of age have access to pasture during the growing season and that 30% of their dry matter intake be from pasture, the Gould’s aspire to exceed those requirements, maximizing use of their home grown nutrients through holistic management practices to reduce their farm inputs, and therefore, their costs. Stephen Gould, a graduate of Cornell with a Bachelors in Animal Science takes on most of pasture management responsibilities. Stephen manages their dairy herd by rotating them every 12 hours through a series of 3-5 acre paddocks he creates using plastic fencing within a 190 acre fenced in permanent pasture. By rotating the herd every 12 hours through small paddocks, Stephen manages herd grazing and therefore manages the nutrient uptake of the cows, as well as the amount of pasture consumed in each pass, maintaining healthy, evenly grazed pasture with manageable amounts of manure left behind to feed the soils and help the grasses rebound before the herd comes back through anywhere from 14 to 35+ days later. “Maturity of the grass, time of season, species of grass and days of rest (time between grazing) drives intake. In the spring, maturity moves very fast, so days of rest should be low. I shoot for around 14 days. Initially we were not moving through the pastured acres fast enough, grass was getting to mature and we were missing the window of maturity that cows would want to eat. Now we start at 14 days, grazing on a total of 100 acres and work towards 35+days of rest while grazing the total 190 acres. Any pasture we do not get to with the cows is mechanically harvested to keep it in the same cycle as the pasture.” says Stephen.

The Gould’s pasture is currently a orchard grass, ryegrass, red clover and white clover mix, though in the spirit of adaptation and efficiency, they are always looking to improve that mixture. For example, the orchard grass, which is wonderfully abundant in very early spring, doesn’t rebound as well as they would like during other times of the year, is something they are looking to improve upon in years to come.

Har-Go’s dairy herd typically grazes from late April to early November, as long as the grass is growing. Photo provided.

Har-Go’s dairy herd typically grazes from late April to early November, as long as the grass is growing. Photo provided.

While Har-Go Farms initial organic system plan <> did not include specific soil health goals, the Gould’s have been giving more and more attention to improving the soils in their crop fields each year. Though no-till is not an option for many Organic farmers, the Gould’s are strong proponents of other “soil health practices”, such as crop rotations, cover crops, and diversification. With a limited tool kit for managing pests, diseases, and weeds, Organic farmers must focus on preventative methods, and the Gould’s see diversification in particular as the key to adaptive and successful organic farming. In addition to their standard corn, soybean and mix grass hay harvest in 2016, the Gould’s experimented with sorghum sudan-grass, which far outpaced their heavier feeding and less drought/heat tolerant field corn. Har-Go also uses triticale as a cover crop and feed source, particularly as an alternative to grain feed, which Har-Go has not had success with consistently enough to be content with. In the 2017 growing season, millet is at the top of their list of species to try. 

Har-Go also focus heavily on crop rotation, which has been becoming more and more prevalent in the soil health world as an important factor in managing biological soil health. To the Gould’s and other organic farmers, however, crop rotation is just part of their every day farm management as a preventative practice focused on reducing pest populations and mitigating damage to crops.

Triticale Double Crop Harvest in May 2016. Photo provided.

Triticale Double Crop Harvest in May 2016. Photo provided.

Sudan grass single cut in September 2016. Photo provided.

Sudan grass single cut in September 2016. Photo provided.

Despite continued use of their moldboard plow, a practice that is generally considered detrimental to soil health (and for good reason), Har-Go Farms and other organic farms that plow as a chemical-free means of weed control, tend to still score well in terms of soil biology and overall soil health. The Gould’s crop fields in particular scored in the “Good” to “Excellent” range on Cornell’s Soil Health Test, doing especially well in the categories of available water capacity, aggregate stability, and organic matter. Their use of manure and diversity of crop, as well as intense crop rotations are likely the reason for their soil’s biological successes. Har-Go’s fields did however fall short in two very important categories: surface and subsurface compaction, for which they were designated “very poor” or as a “constricting factor”. These results are directly related to plowing and are problems the Har-Go team plans to address in the short and long-term with goals such as planting more with broadcast seeding and no-till drilling, which they currently do with their hay plantings and triticale, managing for year-round ground cover with cover crops, as well as investing in wider machinery with better weight distribution, and creating permanent pathways for machinery to avoid future compaction.  In the immediate, Har-Go experimented with “increasing the length of rotation, adding a cover crop of triticale followed by a summer planted annual like sorghum sudan-grass between the corn to soybean rotation.” The 2016 growing season was the first time Har-Go tried this and they’re looking forward to testing those fields again in 2017 to see if there have been any improvements as a result of their alternative management. 

A cow being milked in Har-Go Farms new high-tech milking barn. Photo provided.

A cow being milked in Har-Go Farms new high-tech milking barn. Photo provided.

While their transition to a pasture system alone is beneficial to herd health, Har-Go’s commitment to organic practices and the necessary focus on preventative practices, led them to build a new barn that makes managing for herd health and well-being more efficient. Their milking parlor includes four milking robots that milk their dairy cows up to eight times per day depending on a particular cows age, calving history, etc. Each cow wears a collar, that is scanned when she enters the milking pen and if she is lucky enough to be up for a milking, the robot drops a portion of feed, which she enjoys while the robot cleans her udders, milks her and transfers her milk to a larger holding tank. The robots are even capable of detecting problems with the milk, such as mastitis. When that happens, an alert is sent directly to Stephen’s phone so he knows which cow needs attention and can handle problems quickly and efficiently. The new barn also includes automatic manure cleanup, keeping the floor neat and tidy for their cows during the times of year that there’s snow on the ground, keeping the herd indoors. The Gould’s see their investment in a new, high-tech barn as an investment in preventative health care, keeping the herd as healthy as possible, and ensuring high production of quality milk. Outside of the barn, the herd enjoys greatly improved hoof health while on pasture, and fewer cases of respiratory illness thanks to fresh air during the growing season. Har-Go’s herd health is also managed by human interaction and inspection. As a result of their smaller herd size, the Gould’s and their employees are able to approach farm management holistically, with everyone involved in every aspect of the farm, giving them a better view of the overall picture, which makes potential or existing problems easier to spot and manage. 

Ultimately, a business decision that was made with financial sustainability and stability in mind has provided a sustainable future for Har-Go Farms and a means of carrying on the family business for their son Stephen. Their transition to Organic and emphasis on holistic management keeps their business competitive and provides plenty of opportunity to learn, adapt, and grow. Stephen sees diversification and experimentation as the key to successful farming — “farms need to be able to adapt”, which he plans to do at Har-Go Farms with more intense rotations, a greater variety and higher quality of feed crops and pasture, and a willingness to change and accommodate to whatever the climate, or the market has to throw his way. 

Har-Go Farms is part of the Upstate Farms cooperative. Their organic milk is primarily sold as fluid milk and yogurt at Wegmans. 

To learn more about Organic Farming and Soil Health, read SARE’s Transitioning to Organic Bulletin here.